Pressure from work actions undermined efforts of Mayor’s hand-picked board to weaken safety metrics for all schools, won stronger protocols to prevent virus transmission.
CHICAGO, April 18, 2020—Chicago Teachers Union President Jesse Sharkey sent the email below to rank and file CTU members this afternoon, to announce today’s voting results on the addendum to our reopening agreement with Chicago public schools:
The CTU Rules & Elections Committee has certified the ballot results of the high school addendum to our reopening agreement with Chicago Public Schools. Members voted 83 percent in favor of ratifying the agreement. That closely mirrors the vote at the House of Delegates meeting on Thursday to approve our tentative high school reopening framework and end our work action. The addendum is now a ratified agreement between our union and the district.
This agreement secures critical safety standards for returning in-person to high schools, delivers groundbreaking wins for the protection of our students and defends the safety and working conditions of all members in CPS — Pre-K, cluster, elementary, PSRPs, clinicians and more. The new vaccination program for CPS students and families is, we believe, the first of its kind in the nation to be negotiated by a union of educators.
How we got here
For the last year, our goal in bargaining has been to secure safety, equity and trust for our students, and the educators and support staff who serve them, all while a global pandemic threatened all of our lives — especially in our Black and Latinx communities.
This past week, courageous high school educators at Juarez, Whitney Young, Washington and other schools engaged in work actions that were felt across the city and at the bargaining table, helping change the tone of negotiations. It’s unity and solidarity such as this which pushed the mayor and CPS to agree to terms they initially had no intention of accepting.
The safety protocols we landed in February now apply to all members as we turn our attention to enforcing the agreement in all of our schools through our safety committees. These committees will report and document violations, address Internet and connectivity issues, and help our students and their families access vaccines. Safety committees also speak to the heart and soul of our union: rank-and-file member organizing. Organizing has always been our path to victory, and while there is absolutely no “winning” in a pandemic, these committees help us survive.
The path forward
Convincing the district to take the safety of our school communities seriously shouldn’t be this hard, but that’s the reality we face with an unelected school board accountable only to the mayor. We aim to change that reality this year and create a fully elected representative school board. CPS will also receive some $2 billion from the federal CARES Act this year, and with our community allies, we are working to ensure that parents, teachers and students have a say in how that money is spent.
Just think, for a moment, what those dollars could mean for schools that have been starved for decades.
COVID has changed the way we live our lives, the way we celebrate, the way we mourn, and the way we teach. And the virus isn’t going away any time soon. Our work in this moment is to build toward the future by ending this year strong and preparing for the fall. We must maintain and build upon standards of safety, and push the district to engage with students and families to re-establish trust. We have all suffered in this pandemic, our own children included, but we have to set the tone through our leadership, because next to family, it is teachers, PSRPS, clinicians, counselors and librarians who know our students best.
We owe a huge debt of gratitude to the members who risked their pay and faced potential disciplinary actions standing up for safety during this fight. We also owe thanks to the families, community partners, electeds, clergy and people of Chicago who supported us. They understand that safe working conditions for educators mean safe learning conditions for children. This is an unshakeable bond that we cherish.
We will all return to our buildings this week knowing that our fight — as always — was anchored in creating the schools our students deserve. And that fight continues.
In safety and solidarity,